History of rice in Portugal

Rice is one of the plants eaten since very long ago and it has been very difficult to determine precisely when its cultivation commenced.

Rice is a plant of the family of grasses Ouryza sativa L. The types of rice most produced are the Japonica (short, round grain) and Indian (long, narrow grain) strains.

The dry field rice was introduced into Japan and Korea at around 1,000 BC. The intensively flooded cultivation method arrived in Korea in 850-500 BC and in Japan about 300 BC.

In Europe, rice only became known after Alexander the Great's expedition to India (Vianna e Silva, 1969). The Arabs brought it to the Iberian Peninsula at the time of its conquest in 711. In the mid-fifteenth century it arrived in Italy and then France, spreading this agriculture throughout the rest of the world by means of European conquests. It arrived in South Carolina in 1694 and in South America in the early eighteenth century.

It was during the reign of Dom Dinis that the first written references to the cultivation of rice appeared and this was intended only for tables of the rich. Later in the eighteenth century incentives were made to produce this cereal mainly in the estuaries of the major rivers of Portugal.

In 1900, rice agriculture in Portugal was limited to "the wetlands in the valleys of the rivers Vouga, Mondego, Sado, Mira and Guadiana. Half a century later, with an increase established, its cultivation was carried out in many counties.

The expansion of rice agriculture took place around 1909, after having established a set of guidelines for the preparation of land and the management of water, thus providing for the cultivation of different varieties of rice.

Portugal produces about 150 million kilograms per year coming mainly from the Vale do Tejo, Sado and Mondego zones. There are currently about 25,000 hectares planted mostly with Carolino type rice, of which 70% is the Aríete variety.